Why Would Anyone Sew a Backpack?

After just having completed a backpack, I think the only reasonable answer to that question is: “Because he/she can.”  There’s just not another rational answer to the question.

Several weeks ago there was a sewing listserv discussion about the best pattern to use for a backpack, where to get the hardware, etc.  I watched the discussion and thought, “why in the world would anyone sew a backpack?”.  Even for a small backpack, availability of zippers in the correct size could be a limiting factor. In addition, some of the other hardware and needed supplies are difficult if not impossible to find.

The story starts with Kevin and me taking a day trip to NY. The Bolt and Megabus drop-off’s are nearly in the heart of the fabric district and truth be told and in case you’re wondering, I only stopped at one store.  Interestingly it was to buy zippers but not for this project.  Otherwise we passed right on by the fashion district.  Kevin really liked his old worn drawstring daypack for a short trip such as this but like most drawstring daypacks, it was deficient of the often needed water bottle pocket.

Well loved and used string daypack

Several days later at Jomar’s in Philly, I was lured by these really unusual but fashionable 7″ zippers at $.50 each) and fabric to match off the $1 rack.  Impulsive and thinking, “I don’t often sew for Kevin”.  Maybe I could knock off his old Nike daypack, and while I’m at it, add some features he would like such as a water bottle holder and straps instead of strings but still without too much hardware.  With fabric in hand, that’s what I set out to do, forgetting that only several weeks prior, I thought this a pretty dumb idea.

The idea got out of hand.  

How about putting together a tutorial for my blog?  I created a pattern from the old Nike daypack and took the obligatory photos to share every step with you.  Then came the two lower pockets and at that point my only desire was to finish, abandoning all good intentions to create a tutorial.  Without those two very useful small pockets with a miter at each corner, the bag wasn’t all that difficult – how naive I was.  Without previous experience with this type of bag, I messed up on sequencing – like do you put the big pocket on before the small ones?  And when do you sew the straps to the body?  Oh, and how do you not put the clasp on backward?

Why is there a flap covering a navy zipper?  Surely not to keep the rain out.  The reason is that the silver zippers only came in a 7″ length so for the larger pocket I used a navy zipper and hid the it under a flap.  (Pretty clever, huh?)

Strap anchor - part of it got sewn into the miter at the bottom of the pack

Why is part of the strap anchor sewn into the bottom seam of the bag?  Oops. Because I didn’t think ahead when inserting the strap anchor.

Water bottle holder - nice and tall but not quite enough real estate

Why was the water bottle pocket sewn onto one of those precious difficult to sew pockets?  Again, I had an idea without a plan, leaving experience as the teacher.

Back of the pack - straps inserted with anchors at the bottom and into the seam at the top

In the end……

Despite all of the challenges, I felt very proud that I could complete this bag.  If use is a measure of love, my seam ripper was well-loved during this project.  But in the end, I am really proud of how well this turned out.

If you are interested in the pattern and directions, the photos are waiting.  Just let me know.

8 thoughts on “Why Would Anyone Sew a Backpack?

  1. Years ago I bought a mesh backpack for a dollar at a thrift store. It is my constant companion on any non- car shopping trips, especially to New York. Light as can be but very, very sturdy. Let me answer your question however. Someone would sew a backpack to have control over the fabric. I have always wanted a leather back pack and to that end have been collecting leather pants when I can get them for a dollar . I really appreciate your instructions and will make use of them some day. Mimi

  2. Very cool backpack. Was Dad okay with seams being ripped since it was for him? Hope he’s enjoying it!

  3. Mimi,
    My sister has just sewn 2 incredible leather dresses. She has lots of tips. Hope to interview her about her experience sometime soon. In the mean time, I’ll let you know if I find any leather pants, and I’ll happily share my pattern.

  4. Actually I didn’t need to rip the seams open in order to make a pattern. That would have been easier but thankfully it’s also possible to copy a pattern without cutting apart the old item.

  5. Hello.

    I love this post!! I am trying to sew a backpack myself and wondering if you could share the pattern of this beauty as a template for me to experiment with in my work.

    I actually studied architecture and dive into the fashion world from time to time but always wanting to change the basic template to my own creation. I love how you have designed this piece and would love to understand how it is put together.

    Eagerly looking forward to hearing from you.



  6. My daughter is getting ready for college and really liked this bag how do you make it?

  7. Initially I posted this as I thought I would follow up with a post describing the process. It became so difficult that I just couldn’t do it. I’m so sorry I can’t help.

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